I love this time of the year. While teachers and kids everywhere are getting ready for school, I am starting the selection process for next year’s book group. It may seem strange, but I love reading the endless catalogs, emails, and publisher advertisements in order to find that one book that will give my group the best discussion yet. It can be a bit of a treasure hunt. There’s so much material and so many opinions out there—how can we sift through the endless stream of information? I have some tips to offer, and then I’d love to hear about your search process.
Remember that Booklist‘s reviews are a great source of recommendation. With free resources like webinars, newsletters, and of course book-group posts on The Booklist Reader, there is a wealth of information about high-demand book-group possibilities.
I personally use several different sources—print as well as electronic. One item I just cannot do without is a bi-monthly magazine called Bookmarks. My magazine ends up littered with pen marks, sticky notes, and scrap-paper bookmarks. I really enjoy the “Have You Read?” section where readers send in their top-ten favorite reads. This section in particular often reminds me of a book that has slipped through my radar. The magazine has a ton of reviews online where a multitude of articles are culled from various sources and the book is given a star rating based on those. Then a reviewer weighs in with an overall summary of those articles. An unbiased opinion, a review as opposed to an advertisement, can be helpful when trying to find that perfect read.
Another item I always wait impatiently for is the Reading Groups Choices booklet. The booklet is chock-full of great titles, discussion questions, and readers’ advisory tips. I use the RA tips for ideas about how to fill that hole in the summer months when there’s not enough time to start a new book. They also offer a great iPad app with RA tips and book-group etiquette you can refer to during discussions.
An often overlooked resource, and sometimes one of the best,
is our patrons and co-workers.
Bookpage.com is another print and online resource I enjoy. The reviews are very short (around 80 words)—so you can get a good feel for the book quickly. The author interviews are great for adding information and detail to a discussion. The website offers a book review a day that can be sent to your inbox. Booklist also highlights a review each day, and has a review of the day app.
Lastly, I sign up for webinars given by publishers and others that discuss what is new and up-and-coming. These can cover a wide range of books: new fiction and new nonfiction for adults as well as young adults and middle grades. Many of these webinars offer an opportunity to contact the publisher with questions or to request an ARC. I know Booklist sponsors many webinars as does Library Journal. These are great resources at no cost.
There are many other places to find book recommendations—I could go on forever. An often overlooked resource, and sometimes one of the best, is our patrons and co-workers. And they don’t cost a thing. Talk with them, ask them what they are reading, ask if they’re reading something that just might bring about that next, great book discussion. These people will give you honest answers and that is nice to count on. Where else do you go to find that next great read?